This and the following chapter are an appendix to Solomon's proverbs;
but they are both expressly called prophecies in the
by which it appears that the penmen of them, whoever they were, were
divinely inspired. This chapter was penned by one that bears the name
of "Agur Ben Jakeh." What tribe he was of, or when he lived, we are not
told; what he wrote, being indited by the Holy Ghost, is here kept upon
record. We have here,
I. His confession of faith,
II. His prayer,
III. A caution against wronging servants,
IV. Four wicked generations,
V. Four things insatiable
to which is added fair warning to undutiful children,
VI. Four things unsearchable,
VII. Four things intolerable,
VIII. Four things little and wise,
IX. Four things stately,
The Words of Agur.
1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the
man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,
2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the
understanding of a man.
3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath
gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a
garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what
is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that
put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou
be found a liar.
Some make Agur to be not the name of this author, but his
character; he was a collector (so it signifies), a gatherer, one
that did not compose things himself, but collected the wise sayings and
observations of others, made abstracts of the writings of others, which
some think is the reason why he says
"I have not learned wisdom myself, but have been a
scribe, or amanuensis, to other wise and learned men." Note, We must
not bury our talent, though it be but one, but, as we have received the
gift, so minister the same, if it be but to collect what others have
written. But we rather suppose it to be his name, which, no doubt, was
well known then, though not mentioned elsewhere in scripture. Ithiel
and Ucal are mentioned, either,
1. As the names of his pupils, whom he instructed, or who consulted him
as an oracle, having a great opinion of his wisdom and goodness.
Probably they wrote from him what he dictated, as Baruch wrote from the
mouth of Jeremiah, and by their means it was preserved, as they were
ready to attest it to be his, for it was spoken to them; they were two
witnesses of it. Or,
2. As the subject of his discourse. Ithiel signifies God
with me, the application of Immanuel, God with us. The word
calls him God with us; faith appropriates this, and calls him
"God with me, who loved me, and gave himself for me, and into
union and communion with whom I am admitted." Ucal signifies
the Mighty One, for it is upon one that is mighty that help is
laid for us. Many good interpreters therefore apply this to the
Messiah, for to him all the prophecies bear witness, and why not this
then? It is what Agur spoke concerning Ithiel, even concerning
Ithiel (that is the name on which the stress is laid) with
Three things the prophet here aims at:--
I. To abase himself. Before he makes confession of his faith he makes
confession of his folly and the weakness and deficiency of reason,
which make it so necessary that we be guided and governed by faith.
Before he speaks concerning the Saviour he speaks of himself as needing
a Saviour, and as nothing without him; we must go out of ourselves
before we go into Jesus Christ.
1. He speaks of himself as wanting a righteousness, and having done
foolishly, very foolishly. When he reflects upon himself he owns,
Surely I am more brutish than any man. Every man has become
But he that knows his own heart knows so much more evil of himself than
he does of any other that he cries out, "Surely I cannot but
think that I am more brutish than any man; surely no man has
such a corrupt deceitful heart as I have. I have acted as one that has
not the understanding of Adam, as one that is wretchedly
degenerated from the knowledge and righteousness in which man was at
first created; nay, I have not the common sense and reason of a man,
else I should not have done as I have done." Agur, when he was applied
to by others as wiser than most, acknowledged himself more foolish than
any. Whatever high opinion others may have of us, it becomes us to have
low thoughts of ourselves.
2. He speaks of himself as wanting a revelation to guide him in the
ways of truth and wisdom. He owns
"I neither learned wisdom by any power of my own (the depths of
it cannot be fathomed by my line and plummet) nor know I the
knowledge of the holy ones, the angels, our first parents in
innocency, nor of the holy things of God; I can get no insight into
them, nor make any judgment of them, further than God is pleased to
make them known to me." The natural man, the natural powers, perceive
not, nay, they receive not, the things of the Spirit of God.
Some suppose Agur to be asked, as Apollo's oracle was of old, Who
was the wisest man? The answer is, He that is sensible of his
own ignorance, especially in divine things. Hoc tantum scio, me
nihil scire--All that I know is that I know nothing.
II. To advance Jesus Christ, and the Father in him
Who ascended up into heaven, &c.
1. Some understand this of God and of his works, which are both
incomparable and unsearchable. He challenges all mankind to give an
account of the heavens above, of the winds, the waters, the earth: "Who
can pretend to have ascended up to heaven, to take a view of the
orbs above, and then to have descended, to give us a description of
them? Who can pretend to have had the command of the winds, to have
grasped them in his hand and managed them, as God does, or to have
bound the waves of the sea with a swaddling band, as God has done? Who
has established the ends of the earth, or can describe the
strength of its foundations or the extent of its limits? Tell me what
is the man's name who can undertake to vie with God or to be of
his cabinet-council, or, if he be dead, what is his name to whom he has
bequeathed this great secret."
2. Others refer it to Christ, to Ithiel and Ucal, the Son of God, for
it is the Son's name, as well as the Father's, that is here enquired
after, and a challenge given to any to vie with him. We must now exalt
Christ as one revealed; they then magnified him as one concealed, as
one they had heard something of but had very dark and defective ideas
of. We have heard the fame of him with our ears, but cannot
certainly it is God that has gathered the wind in his fists and
bound the waters as in a garment; but what is his name?
It is, I am that I am
a name to be adored, not to be understood. What is his Son's
name, by whom he does all these things? The Old-Testament saints
expected the Messiah to be the Son of the Blessed, and he is
here spoken of as a person distinct from the Father, but his name as
yet secret. Note, The great Redeemer, in the glories of his providence
and grace, can neither be paralleled nor found out to perfection.
(1.) The glories of the kingdom of his grace are unsearchable and
unparalleled; for who besides has ascended into heaven and
descended? Who besides is perfectly acquainted with both worlds,
and has himself a free correspondence with both, and is therefore fit
to settle a correspondence between them, as Mediator, as Jacob's
ladder? He was in heaven in the Father's bosom
thence he descended to take our nature upon him; and never was there
such condescension. In that nature he again ascended
to receive the promised glories of his exalted state; and who besides
has done this?
(2.) The glories of the kingdom of his providence are likewise
unsearchable and unparalleled. The same that reconciles heaven and
earth was the Creator of both and governs and disposes of all. His
government of the three lower elements of air, water, and
earth, is here particularized.
[1.] The motions of the air are of his directing. Satan pretends to be
the prince of the power of the air, but even there Christ has
all power; he rebuked the winds and they obeyed him.
[2.] The bounds of the water are of his appointing: He binds the
waters as in a garment; hitherto they shall come, and no further,
[3.] The foundations of the earth are of his establishing. He founded
it at first; he upholds it still. If Christ had not interposed, the
foundations of the earth would have sunk under the load of the curse
upon the ground, for man's sin. Who and what is the mighty He that does
all this? We cannot find out God, nor the Son of God, unto
perfection. Oh the depth of that knowledge!
III. To assure us of the truth of the word of God, and to recommend it
Agur's pupils expect to be instructed by him in the things of God.
"Alas!" says he, "I cannot undertake to instruct you; go to the word of
God; see what he has there revealed of himself, and of his mind and
will; you need know no more than what that will teach you, and that you
may rely upon as sure and sufficient. Every word of God is pure;
there is not the least mixture of falsehood and corruption in it." The
words of men are to be heard and read with jealousy and with allowance,
but there is not the least ground to suspect any deficiency in the word
of God; it is as silver purified seven times
without the least dross or alloy. Thy word is very pure,
1. It is sure, and therefore we must trust to it and venture our souls
upon it. God in his word, God in his promise, is a shield, a
sure protection, to all those that put themselves under his protection
and put their trust in him. The word of God, applied by faith,
will make us easy in the midst of the greatest dangers,
2. It is sufficient, and therefore we must not add to it
Add thou not unto his words, because they are pure and perfect.
This forbids the advancing of any thing, not only in contradiction to
the word of God, but in competition with it; though it be under the
plausible pretence of explaining it, yet, if it pretend to be of equal
authority with it, it is adding to his words, which is not only
a reproach to them as insufficient, but opens a door to all manner of
errors and corruptions; for, that one absurdity being granted, that the
word of any man, or company of men, is to be received with the same
faith and veneration as the word of God, a thousand follow. We must be
content with what God has thought fit to make known to us of his mind,
and not covet to be wise above what is written; for,
(1.) God will resent it as a heinous affront: "He will
reprove thee, will reckon with thee as a traitor against his
crown and dignity, and lay thee under the heavy doom of those that add
to his words, or diminish from them,"
(2.) We shall run ourselves into endless mistakes: "Thou wilt be found
a liar, a corrupter of the word of truth, a broacher of heresies, and
guilty of the worst of forgeries, counterfeiting the broad seal of
heaven, and pretending a divine mission and inspiration, when it is all
a cheat. Men may be thus deceived, but God is not mocked."
The Prayer of Agur.
7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not
before I die:
8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty
nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD?
or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in
After Agur's confession and creed, here follows his litany, where we
I. The preface to his prayer: Two things have I required (that
is, requested) of thee, O God! Before we go to pray it is good
to consider what we need, and what the things are which we have to ask
of God.--What does our case require? What do our hearts desire? What
would we that God should do for us?--that we may not have to seek for
our petition and request when we should be presenting it. He begs,
Deny me not before I die. In praying, we should think of dying,
and pray accordingly. "Lord, give me pardon, and peace, and grace,
before I die, before I go hence and be no more; for, if I be not
renewed and sanctified before I die, the work will not be done after;
if I do not prevail in prayer before I die, prayers afterwards will not
prevail, no, not Lord, Lord. There is none of this wisdom or
working in the grave. Deny me not thy grace, for, if thou do, I
die, I perish; if thou be silent to me, I am like those that go down
to the pit,
Deny me not before I die; as long as I continue in the land of
the living, let me continue under the conduct of thy grace and good
II. The prayer itself. The two things he requires are grace
sufficient and food convenient.
1. Grace sufficient for his soul: "Remove from me vanity and
lies; deliver me from sin, from all corrupt principles, practices,
and affections, from error and mistake, which are at the bottom of all
sin, from the love of the world and the things of it, which are all
vanity and a lie." Some understand it as a prayer for the pardon
of sin, for, when God forgives sin, he removes it, he takes it away.
Or, rather, it is a prayer of the same import with that, Lead us not
into temptation. Nothing is more mischievous to us than sin, and
therefore there is nothing which we should more earnestly pray against
than that we may do no evil.
2. Food convenient for his body. Having prayed for the operations of
divine grace, he here begs the favours of the divine Providence, but
such as may tend to the good and not to the prejudice of the soul.
(1.) He prays that of God's free gift he might receive a competent
portion of the good things of this life: "Feed me with the bread of
my allowance, such bread as thou thinkest fit to allow me." As to
all the gifts of the divine Providence, we must refer ourselves to the
divine wisdom. Or, "the bread that is fit for me, as a man, a
master of a family, that which is agreeable to my rank and condition in
the world." For as is the man so is his competency. Our Saviour
seems to refer to this when he teaches us to pray, Give us this day
our daily bread, as this seems to refer to Jacob's vow, in which he
wished for no more than bread to eat and raiment to put on. Food
convenient for us is what we ought to be content with, though we have
not dainties, varieties, and superfluities--what is for necessity,
though we have not for delight and ornament; and it is what we may in
faith pray for and depend upon God for.
(2.) He prays that he may be kept from every condition of life that
would be a temptation to him.
[1.] He prays against the extremes of abundance and want: Give me
neither poverty nor riches. He does not hereby prescribe to God,
nor pretend to teach him what condition he shall allot to him, nor does
he pray against poverty or riches absolutely, as in themselves evil,
for either of them, by the grace of God, may be sanctified and be a
means of good to us; but, First, He hereby intends to express
the value which wise and good men have for a middle state of life, and,
with submission to the will of God, desires that that might be his
state, neither great honour nor great contempt. We must learn how to
manage both (as St. Paul,
but rather wish to be always between both. Optimus pecuniæ
modus qui nec in paupertatem cedit nec procul à paupertate
discedit--The best condition is that which neither implies poverty nor
yet recedes far from it. Seneca. Secondly, He hereby
intimates a holy jealousy he had of himself, that he could not keep his
ground against the temptations either of an afflicted or a prosperous
condition. Others may preserve their integrity in either, but he is
afraid of both, and therefore grace teaches him to pray against riches
as much as nature against poverty; but the will of the Lord be
[2.] He gives a pious reason for his prayer,
He does not say, "Lest I be rich, and cumbered with care, and
envied by my neighbours, and eaten up with a multitude of servants, or,
lest I be poor and trampled on, and forced to work hard and fare
hard;" but, "Lest I be rich and sin, or poor and sin."
Sin is that which a good man is afraid of in every condition and under
every event; witness Nehemiah
that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin. First, He dreads
the temptations of a prosperous condition, and therefore even
deprecates that: Lest I be full and deny thee (as Jeshurun, who
waxed fat and kicked, and forsook God who made him,
and say, as Pharaoh in his pride, Who is the Lord, that I should
obey his voice? Prosperity makes people proud and forgetful of God,
as if they had no need of him and were therefore under no obligation to
him. What can the Almighty do for them?
And therefore they will do nothing for him. Even good men are afraid of
the worst sins, so deceitful do they think their own hearts to be; and
they know that the greatest gains of the world will not balance the
least guilt. Secondly, He dreads the temptations of a poor
condition, and for that reason, and no other, deprecates that: Lest
I be poor and steal. Poverty is a strong temptation to dishonesty,
and such as many are overcome by, and they are ready to think it will
be their excuse; but it will not bear them out at God's bar any more
than at men's to say, "I stole because I was poor;" yet, if a man
steal for the satisfying of his soul when he is hungry, it is a
case of compassion
and what even those that have some principles of honesty in them may be
drawn to. But observe why Agur dreads this, not because he should
endanger himself by it, "Lest I steal, and be hanged for it, whipped or
put in the stocks, or sold for a bondman," as among the Jews poor
thieves were, who had not wherewithal to make restitution; but lest he
should dishonour God by it: "Lest I should steal, and take the name
of my God in vain, that is, discredit my profession of religion by
practices disagreeable to it." Or, "Lest I steal, and, when I am
charged with it, forswear myself." He therefore dreads one sin,
because it would draw on another, for the way of sin is downhill.
Observe, He calls God his God, and therefore he is afraid
of doing any thing to offend him because of the relation he stands in
Four Wicked Generations.
10 Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee,
and thou be found guilty.
11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and
doth not bless their mother.
12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes,
and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and
their eyelids are lifted up.
14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and
their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the
earth, and the needy from among men.
I. A caution not to abuse other people's servants any more than our
own, nor to make mischief between them and their masters, for it is an
ill office, invidious, and what will make a man odious,
1. It is an injury to the servant, whose poor condition makes him an
object of pity, and therefore it is barbarous to add affliction to him
that is afflicted: Hurt not a servant with thy tongue (so the
margin reads it); for it argues a sordid disposition to smite any body
secretly with the scourge of the tongue, especially a servant, who is
not a match for us, and whom we should rather protect, if his master be
severe with him, than exasperate him more.
2. "It will perhaps be an injury to thyself. If a servant be thus
provoked, perhaps he will curse thee, will accuse thee and bring thee
into trouble, or give thee an ill word and blemish thy reputation, or
appeal to God against thee, and imprecate his wrath upon thee,
who is the patron and protector of oppressed innocency."
II. An account, upon occasion of this caution, of some wicked
generations of men, that are justly abominable to all that are virtuous
1. Such as are abusive to their parents, give them bad language and
wish them ill, call them bad names and actually injure them. There
is a generation of such; young men of that black character commonly
herd together, and irritate one another against their parents. A
generation of vipers those are who curse their natural parents,
or their magistrates, or their ministers, because they cannot endure
the yoke; and those are near of kin to them who, though they have not
yet arrived at such a pitch of wickedness as to curse their parents,
yet do not bless them, cannot give them a good word, and will not pray
2. Such as are conceited of themselves, and, under a show and pretence
of sanctity, hide from others, and perhaps from themselves too,
abundance of reigning wickedness in secret
they are pure in their own eyes, as if they were in all respects
such as they should be. They have a very good opinion of themselves and
their own character, that they are not only righteous, but rich and
increased with goods
and yet are not cleansed from their filthiness, the filthiness
of their hearts, which they pretend to be the best part of them. They
are, it may be, swept and garnished, but they are not washed, nor
sanctified; as the Pharisees that within were full of all
3. Such as are haughty and scornful to those about them,
He speaks of them with amazement at their intolerable pride and
insolence: "Oh how lofty are their eyes! With what disdain do
they look upon their neighbours, as not worthy to be set with the dogs
of their flock! What a distance do they expect every body should keep;
and, when they look upon themselves, how do they strut and vaunt like
the peacock, thinking they make themselves illustrious when really they
make themselves ridiculous!" There is a generation of such, on whom he
that resists the proud will pour contempt.
4. Such as are cruel to the poor and barbarous to all that lie at their
their teeth are iron and steel, swords and knives, instruments
of cruelty, with which they devour the poor with the greatest
pleasure imaginable, and as greedily as hungry men cut their meat and
eat it. God has so ordered it that the poor we shall always have
with us, that they shall never cease out of the land; but
there are those who, because they hate to relieve them, would, if they
could, abolish them from the earth, from among men, especially
God's poor. Some understand it of those who wound and ruin others by
slanders and false accusations, and severe censures of their
everlasting state; their tongues, and their teeth too (which are
likewise organs of speech), are as swords and knives,
Four Things Unsearchable.
15 The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give.
There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four
things say not, It is enough:
16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not
filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to
obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out,
and the young eagles shall eat it.
He had spoken before of those that devoured the poor
and had spoken of them last, as the worst of all the four generations
there mentioned; now here he speaks of their insatiableness in doing
this. The temper that puts them upon it is made up of cruelty and
covetousness. Now those are two daughters of the
horse-leech, its genuine offspring, that still cry, "Give,
give, give more blood, give more money;" for the bloody are still
blood-thirsty; being drunk with blood, they add thirst to their
drunkenness, and will seek it yet again. Those also that love
silver shall never be satisfied with silver. Thus, while
from these two principles they are devouring the poor, they are
continually uneasy to themselves, as David's enemies,
Now, for the further illustration of this,
I. He specifies four other things which are insatiable, to which those
devourers are compared, which say not, It is enough, or It is
wealth. Those are never rich that are always coveting. Now these
four things that are always craving are,
1. The grave, into which multitudes fall, and yet still more will fall,
and it swallows them all up, and returns none, Hell and destruction
are never full,
When it comes to our turn we shall find the grave ready for us,
2. The barren womb, which is impatient of its affliction in
being barren, and cries, as Rachel did, Give me children.
3. The parched ground in time of drought (especially in those
hot countries), which still soaks in the rain that comes in abundance
upon it and in a little time wants more.
4. The fire, which, when it has consumed abundance of fuel, yet
still devours all the combustible matter that is thrown into it. So
insatiable are the corrupt desires of sinners, and so little
satisfaction have they even in the gratification of them.
II. He adds a terrible threatening to disobedient children
for warning to the first of those four wicked generations, that curse
and shows here,
1. Who they are that belong to that generation, not only those that
curse their parents in heat and passion, but,
(1.) Those that mock at them, though it be but with a scornful
eye, looking with disdain upon them because of their bodily
infirmities, or looking sour or dogged at them when they instruct or
command, impatient at their checks and angry at them. God takes notice
with what eye children look upon their parents, and will reckon for the
leering look and the casts of the evil eye as well as for the bad
language given them.
(2.) Those that despise to obey them, that think it a thing
below them to be dutiful to their parents, especially to the
mother, they scorn to be controlled by her; and thus she that
bore them in sorrow in greater sorrow bears their manners.
2. What their doom will be. Those that dishonour their parents shall be
set up as monuments of God's vengeance; they shall be hanged in chains,
as it were, for the birds of prey to pick out their eyes, those eyes
with which they looked so scornfully on their good parents. The dead
bodies of malefactors were not to hang all night, but before night the
ravens would have picked out their eyes. If men do not punish undutiful
children, God will, and will load those with the greatest infamy that
conduct themselves haughtily towards their parents. Many who have come
to an ignominious end have owned that the wicked courses that brought
them to it began in a contempt of their parents' authority.
Four Things Little and Wise.
18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea,
four which I know not:
19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a
rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a
man with a maid.
20 Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and
wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four
which it cannot bear:
22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled
23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid
that is heir to her mistress.
I. An account of four things that are unsearchable, too
wonderful to be fully known. And here,
1. The first three are natural things, and are only designed as
comparisons for the illustration of the last. We cannot trace,
(1.) An eagle in the air. Which way she has flown cannot be
discovered either by the footstep or by the scent, as the way of a
beast may upon ground; nor can we account for the wonderful swiftness
of her flight, how soon she has gone beyond our ken.
(2.) A serpent upon a rock. The way of a serpent in the sand we
may find by the track, but not of a serpent upon the hard rock; nor can
we describe how a serpent will, without feet, in a little time creep to
the top of a rock.
(3.) A ship in the midst of the sea. The leviathan indeed
makes a path to shine after him, one would think the deep to be
but a ship leaves no mark behind it, and sometimes it is so tossed upon
the waves that one would wonder how it lives at sea and gains its
point. The kingdom of nature is full of wonders, marvellous things
which the God of nature does, past finding out.
2. The fourth is a mystery of iniquity, more unaccountable than any of
these; it belongs to the depths of Satan, that deceitfulness and that
desperate wickedness of the heart which none can know,
It is twofold:--
(1.) The cursed arts which a vile adulterer has to debauch a maid, and
to persuade her to yield to his wicked and abominable lust. This is
what a wanton poet wrote a whole book of, long since, De arte
amandi--On the art of love. By what pretensions and protestations
of love, and all its powerful charms, promises of marriage, assurances
of secresy and reward, is many an unwary virgin brought to sell her
virtue, and honour, and peace, and soul, and all to a base traitor; for
so all sinful lust is in the kingdom of love. The more artfully the
temptation is managed the more watchful and resolute ought every pure
heart to be against it.
(2.) The cursed arts which a vile adulteress has to conceal her
wickedness, especially from her husband, from whom she treacherously
departs; so close are her intrigues with her lewd companions, and so
craftily disguised, that it is as impossible to discover her as to
track an eagle in the air. She eats the forbidden fruit, after
the similitude of Adam's transgression, and then wipes her
mouth, that it may not betray itself, and with a bold and impudent
face says, I have done no wickedness.
[1.] To the world she denies the fact, and is ready to swear it that
she is as chaste and modest as any woman, and never did the wickedness
she is suspected of. Those are the works of darkness which are
industriously kept from coming to the light.
[2.] To her own conscience (if she have any left) she denies the fault,
and will not own that that great wickedness is any wickedness at
all, but an innocent entertainment. See
Thus multitudes ruin their souls by calling evil good and out-facing
their convictions with a self-justification.
II. An account of four things that are intolerable, that is, four sorts
of persons that are very troublesome to the places where they live and
the relations and companies they are in; the earth is disquieted for
them, and groans under them as a burden it cannot bear, and they
are all much alike:--
1. A servant when he is advanced, and entrusted with power, who
is, of all others, most insolent and imperious; witness Tobiah the
servant, the Ammonite,
2. A fool, a silly, rude, boisterous, vicious man, who when he
has grown rich, and is partaking of the pleasures of the table, will
disturb all the company with his extravagant talk and the affronts he
will put upon those about him.
3. An ill-natured, cross-grained, woman, when she gets a
husband, one who, having made herself odious by her pride and sourness,
so that one would not have thought any body would ever love her, yet,
if at last she be married, that honourable estate makes her more
intolerably scornful and spiteful than ever. It is a pity that that
which should sweeten the disposition should have a contrary effect. A
gracious woman, when she is married, will be yet more obliging.
4. An old maid-servant that has prevailed with her mistress, by
humouring her, and, as we say, getting the length of her foot, to leave
her what she has, or is as dear to her as if she was to be her heir,
such a one likewise will be intolerably proud and malicious, and think
all too little that her mistress gives her, and herself wronged if any
thing be left from her. Let those therefore whom Providence has
advanced to honour from mean beginnings carefully watch against that
sin which will most easily beset them, pride and haughtiness, which
will in them, of all others, be most insufferable and inexcusable; and
let them humble themselves with the remembrance of the rock out of
which they were hewn.
Four Things Little and Wise.
24 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but
they are exceeding wise:
25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their
meat in the summer;
26 The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their
houses in the rocks;
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by
28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings'
I. Agur, having specified four things that seem great and yet are
really contemptible, here specifies four things that are little and yet
are very admirable, great in miniature, in which, as bishop Patrick
observes, he teaches us several good lessons; as,
1. Not to admire bodily bulk, or beauty, or strength, nor to value
persons or think the better of them for such advantages, but to judge
of men by their wisdom and conduct, their industry and application to
business, which are characters that deserve respect.
2. To admire the wisdom and power of the Creator in the smallest and
most despicable animals, in an ant as much as in an elephant.
3. To blame ourselves who do not act so much for our own true interest
as the meanest creatures do for theirs.
4. Not to despise the weak things of the world; there are those that
are little upon the earth, poor in the world and of small
account, and yet are exceedingly wise, wise for their souls and
another world, and those are exceedingly wise, wiser than their
neighbours. Margin, They are wise, made wise by the special
instinct of nature. All that are wise to salvation are made wise by the
grace of God.
II. Those he specifies are,
1. The ants, minute animals and very weak, and yet they are very
industrious in gathering proper food, and have a strange sagacity to do
it in the summer, the proper time. This is so great a piece of wisdom
that we may learn of them to be wise for futurity,
When the ravening lions lack, and suffer hunger, the laborious
ants have plenty, and know no want.
2. The conies, or, as some rather understand it, the Arabian
mice, field mice, weak creatures, and very timorous, yet they have so
much wisdom as to make their houses in the rocks, where they are
well guarded, and their feebleness makes them take shelter in those
natural fastnesses and fortifications. Sense of our own indigence and
weakness should drive us to him that is a rock higher than we
for shelter and support; there let us make our habitation.
3. The locusts; they are little also, and have no king,
as the bees have, but they go forth all of them by bands, like
an army in battle-array; and, observing such good order among
themselves, it is not any inconvenience to them that they have no
king. They are called God's great army
for, when he pleases, he musters, he marshals them, and wages war by
them, as he did upon Egypt. They go forth all of them gathered
together (so the margin); sense of weakness should engage us to
keep together, that we may strengthen the hands of one another.
4. The spider, an insect, but as great an instance of industry
in our houses as the ants are in the field. Spiders are very ingenious
in weaving their webs with a fineness and exactness such as no art can
pretend to come near: They take hold with their hands, and spin
a fine thread out of their own bowels, with a great deal of art; and
they are not only in poor men's cottages, but in kings' palaces,
notwithstanding all the care that is there taken to destroy them.
Providence wonderfully keeps up those kinds of creatures, not only
which men provide not for, but which every man's hand is against and
seeks the destruction of. Those that will mind their business, and
take hold of it with their hands, shall be in kings'
palaces; sooner or later, they will get preferment, and may go on
with it, notwithstanding the difficulties and discouragements they meet
with. If one well-spun web be swept away, it is but making another.
Four Things Majestic and Stately.
29 There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely
30 A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not
away for any;
31 A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom
there is no rising up.
32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if
thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the
wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of
wrath bringeth forth strife.
I. An enumeration of four things which are majestic and stately in
their going, which look great:--
1. A lion, the king of beasts, because strongest among
beasts. Among beasts it is strength that gives the pre-eminence,
but it is a pity that it should do so among men, whose wisdom is
their honour, not their strength and force. The lion
turns not away, nor alters his pace, for fear of any pursuers,
since he knows he is too hard for them. Herein the righteous are
bold as a lion, that they turn not away from their duty for
fear of any difficulty they meet with in it.
2. A greyhound that is girt in the loins and fit for running;
or (as the margin reads it) a horse, which ought not to be
omitted among the creatures that are comely in going, for so he
is, especially when he is dressed up in his harness or trappings.
3. A he-goat, the comeliness of whose going is when he goes
first and leads the flock. It is the comeliness of a Christian's going
to go first in a good work and to lead others in the right way.
4. A king, who, when he appears in his majesty, is looked upon
with reverence and awe, and all agree that there is no rising up
against him; none can vie with him, none can contend with him,
whoever does it, it is at his peril. And, if there is no rising
up against an earthly prince, woe to him then that
strives with his Maker. It is intended that we should learn courage
and fortitude in all virtuous actions from the lion and not
to turn away for any difficulty we meet with; from the
greyhound we may learn quickness and despatch, from the
he-goat the care of our family and those under our charge, and
from a king to have our children in subjection with all gravity,
and from them all to go well, and to order the steps of our
conversation so as that we may not only be safe, but comely, in
II. A caution to us to keep our temper at all times and under all
provocations, and to take heed of carrying our resentments too far upon
any occasion, especially when there is a king in the case,
against whom there is no rising up, when it is a ruler, or one
much our superior, that is offended; nay, the rule is always the
1. We must bridle and suppress our own passion, and take shame to
ourselves, whenever we are justly charged with a fault, and not insist
upon our own innocency: If we have lifted up ourselves, either
in a proud conceit of ourselves or a peevish opposition to those that
are over us, if we have transgressed the laws of our place and station,
we have therein done foolishly. Those that magnify themselves
over others or against others, that are haughty and insolent, do but
shame themselves and betray their own weakness. Nay, if we have but
thought evil, if we are conscious to ourselves that we have
harboured an ill design in our minds, or it has been suggested to us,
we must lay our hand upon our mouth, that is,
(1.) We must humble ourselves for what we have done amiss, and even lie
in the dust before God, in sorrow for it, as Job did, when he repented
of what he had said foolishly
I will lay my hand upon my mouth), and as the convicted leper,
who put a covering upon his upper lip. If we have done
foolishly, we must not stand to it before men, but by silence own
our guilt, which will be the best way of appeasing those we have
2. We must keep the evil thought we have conceived in our minds from
breaking out in any evil speeches. Do not give the evil thought an
imprimatur--a license; allow it not to be published; but lay
thy hand upon thy mouth; use a holy violence with thyself, if need
be, and enjoin thyself silence; as Christ suffered not the evil
spirits to speak. It is bad to think ill, but it is much worse to
speak it, for that implies a consent to the evil thought and a
willingness to infect others with it.
2. We must not irritate the passions of others. Some are so very
provoking in their words and conduct that they even force wrath,
they make those about them angry whether they will or no, and put those
into a passion who are not only not inclined to it, but resolved
against it. Now this forcing of wrath brings forth strife, and
where that is there is confusion and every evil work. As the
violent agitation of the cream fetches all the good out of the milk,
and the hard wringing of the nose will extort blood from it, so
this forcing of wrath wastes both the body and spirits of a man,
and robs him of all the good that is in him. Or, as it is in the
churning of milk and the wringing of the nose, that is done by
force which otherwise would not be done, so the spirit is heated by
degrees with strong passions; one angry word begets another, and that a
third; one passionate debate makes work for another, and so it goes on
till it ends at length in irreconcilable feuds. Let nothing therefore
be said or done with violence, but every thing with softness and
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Proverbs' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".